Lisa Wright is a business reporter with the Toronto Star, which has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on Canada’s federal and provincial politics as well as shaping public opinion.
After decades in the mining game, Goldcorp Inc. has finally figured out a way for its worker bees to make “liquid gold.” The enterprising environmental team at the Canadian company’s subsidiary in Timmins has transformed an old mine tailings property into a real hive of activity, where bees make honey amid the tall grass and flowering vegetation that until recently was a barren wasteland.
The Vancouver-based mining giant inherited the mined-out land as part of its purchase of a massive property known as Porcupine Gold Mines (PGM) in the northern Ontario city back in 2006.
The 58 hectares called the Coniaurum (which is Latin for constant gold) was mined for nearly 50 years and then abruptly abandoned in 1961 following a serious storm that breached tailings containment dams and caused discharge problems. Back then the industry was an unregulated wild west where miners would dig in and then just duck out when they were done.
Enter Goldcorp and modern day mining. Coniaurum is one of 20 burnt out mines amid its PGM operations and the first to be renewed as a wildlife habitat and rolling green field — and also an experimental ground on how to resurrect the rest of these eyesores.
“As a kid, I used to play with my buddies there and I can tell you it was a very different place,” says Timmins Mayor Tom Laughren, a lifelong resident.
“It reminded me of pictures you would see of war zones around the world, so to see how green and clean it is today is just amazing,” he says.
Former companies that mined the Porcupine area — now the longest continually operating gold district in North America with two operating mines and exploration still underway after a century — gave the industry a black eye because they would take the resources and disappear without giving back, says Laughren.
“Mining has evolved, and we aren’t just going to leave that mess behind,” says Dave Bucar, PGM’s strategic development manager who oversaw the $3 million project.
Goldcorp has committed about $10 million a year to an extensive rehabilitation across the city. For its efforts, the company’s team in Timmins won the top annual environmental award at a Sudbury mining convention in June for the unique reclamation project, which went above and beyond the usual requirements for re-greening old tailings sites.
It didn’t happen overnight. After consultations with local community group, Porcupine Watchful Eye, work began six years ago to stabilize the site that resembled a moonscape. Over time, depression areas were filled in and bio-solids were applied and topped with wild seed mix to promote vegetation growth such as natural grass, shrubs and trees.
This in turn has attracted wildlife. Coniaurum is now home to various birds of prey along with bears, moose, foxes and rabbits.
They also installed an enclosed area of hives (fenced off to keep the bears out) so that bees can safely produce what the company refers to as “liquid gold” — a tip of the hat to the historic use of the site.
“It’s the best honey I’ve ever tasted,” says Goldcorp’s environmental manager László Götz, who is admittedly a tad biased.
They only produce 40 litres a season so it’s not for sale, he says.
The project has also drawn the curiosity of local students and tour groups from around the world — namely Shania Twain fan clubs looking for an authentic experience in their favourite singer’s birthplace.
Underground mine tours have always been a popular attraction in the gold-rich city, but people are also interested to see what happens once miners have packed up and left, notes Götz.
For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1029384–liquid-gold-a-big-hit-in-shania-s-hometown